The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973

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A letter from Tolstoy

From The Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review of March 1912:

Wassermann's Monatshefte contains a letter which Tolstoy wrote not long before his death to a peasant, who had made some enquiries about the vegetarian mode of living. The letter is so beautiful and moderate that I give it in full: -

"Kotchetyi, 21st September, 1910.

Your sensible and good letter, my dear Nekrassow, has reached me. I send you such books as I can. I frequently have to answer the question about the impossibility of living on a vegetarian diet. It is usually put by people who do not seek perfection, but who want to continue on the unbridled path. But I would answer you thus:- The pith of the Christian teaching is that it sets up the ideal of the perfect life. It is quite clear that this ideal of absolute perfection is for us unattainable. But the task and aim of the Christian idealist is to approach perfection as nearly as lies in his power. It is approached by humility, self-abnegation, veracity, gentleness, forgiveness of offences, purity and love towards men and all living beings. If you can abstain from killing your fellow man - it is good; if you can do without killing beasts and birds - it is better; and if you kill neither fish nor insect, that is still better. Try to advance as far as you can. Do not argue about what is or is not possible; only do what you find possible for yourself. It is on this that all depends. And rest assured that the accusations and suspicions which men harbour against you are as a rule due to a desire on their part to continue in the path of wickedness. But we must never forget what I said above, that the Christian teaching is not to be perfect, but to approach as near as possible to perfection. - Your brother in love,

Leo Tolstoy.

Reproduced with the kind permission of The Vegetarian Society

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